After reviewing the 2013 Toyota Tundra only days ago, I heard about a towing feat that I had to share (if only because it will probably never happen again). The Toyota Tundra CrewMax, without any special customization, will be towing the Space Shuttle Endeavor to its retirement home, the L.A. Exposition Park.
The trip will only be a quarter mile in length – hardly longer than some people’s trip to the mailbox — but will be witnessed by throngs of space enthusiasts; and that is surely something that no truck manufacturer would leave to chance. After all, this is a 300,000 lb. National treasure.
The half-ton pickup powered by Toyota’s standard 5.7L V8, will do its big-haul job on October 13.
So, how will this Tundra, with a stated max tow rating of about 10,500 accomplish this quarter-mile task? First, no sleight of hand magic. The truck is the same kind of Tundra that I reviewed — 2012 with no beefed up acoutrements that are not on the Toyota website – no added modifications to capacity or power generation capabilities.
How they’re going to do it
Toyota’s partner in devising the set up is The Sarens Group, an engineering and heavy lifting transport group, and together they have developed a unique and specialized dolly for this specific purpose. Toyota says that even with this set-up, the tow power of the Tundra will be the driving force.
The company says that the tow, using the San Antonio-built vehicle is a “unique way to demonstrate Tundra’s capabilities”. Most interesting, of course, is that — with this generation of shuttles retired and the space program focusing on other things — the record will never be broken by competitors. Although I am sure that they are already trying to figure out how to top it.
This participation in the transport of the shuttle is part of an ongoing partnership that Toyota has had with the Science Center. (A Tundra truck is currently on display as part of a display on the physics of leverage, and will be replaced by the tow vehicle once the Endeavour is safely in place and on display.
There is a published schedule with low flyovers (1500 feet) of some space landmarks, after the shuttle departs from Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a modified 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) on September 17th. Some of these: the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Cape Canaveral Air Force Statyion and Patrick Air Force Base. Other locations include NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
Texas, with its lengthy space program history, is also in the cards. As it arrives over the Texaas Gulf Coast, the SCA will do low level flyovers over areas of Houston, Clear Lake and Galveston before landing at Ellington Field near the Johnson Space Center, and will probably remain there for the remainder of September 17th and all day the 18th.
At sunrise on September 19, the aircraft will depart Houston, make a refueling stop at Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso, and resume the low-level flyovers of White Sands Test Facility and the Dryden Flight Research Center.
The ferry flight is at the mercy of weather and operating conditions, but with luck will arrive at LAX on September 20th after California salutes near NASA’s Ames Research Center and various landmarks around cities like San Francisco and Sacramento and L.A.
The Endeavour completed 25 missions, spent 299 days in orbit and orbited the Earth 6,671 times while traveling 122,883,151 miles.